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ICC Women World Cup

source:xsntime:2023-11-29 16:22:44

Teenagers are known to cause absolute chaos and Salma Paralluelo is no exception.

ICC Women World Cup

The 19-year-old forward scored in her second consecutive World Cup knockout match to lead Spain to a 2-1 victory over Sweden and to a first final in the tournament.

ICC Women World Cup


Having entered the fray just before the hour mark in a tight and tense semifinal in Auckland, the former sprinter and hurdler's pace and agility unlocked the stubborn Swedish defense to score what looked to be the winning goal in the 81st minute.

ICC Women World Cup

Though the match then descended into bedlam, as Rebecka Blomqvist equalized in the 88th minute only for Spanish captain Olga Carmona to cannon the ball off the crossbar and into the net from the edge of the area just 93 seconds later, there was no doubting who the game changer was.

Paralluelo, having become just the second teenager to score in a World Cup semifinal, found words hard to come by at the end of the match.

"It was a magic moment. It is something very unique when I scored my first World Cup goal (against the Netherlands)," the Barcelona forward said after picking up her second Player of the Match award. "To be able to repeat is really incredible."

However, her Barca teammate Irene Paredes joked that Paralluelo's heroics were nothing special.

"I'm not impressed! I have trained with her for a whole year, I've also felt her speed in my legs! I know what she is capable of doing and her career can be amazing," she told DW.

"In a moment like today, when she comes into the game it is so hard for the defenders of the other teams because she is going so fast and uses her feet so well, she makes the difference."

Football over athletics

It is not rare for injury to lead to crossroads for athletes and for Paralluelo a string of persistent knocks forced her to choose between athletics and football in 2020.

As the Spanish under-18 and under-20 record-holder in the 400 meters and the 400-meter hurdles, a successful career on the track once looked more likely than one in football.

However, Paralluelo clearly made no mistake when she decided to pursue football instead.

"Athletics involved making a bigger sacrifice. With football, I get a kick out of it," she said. "I enjoyed sharing something with the team, with my people."

It prompted a move from hometown club Zaragoza to Villarreal, where despite suffering a further setback in 2021, when she picked up an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, her deadly pace saw Barcelona come calling.

In her first season with the club, she scored 17 times in 34 appearances to help Barcelona win the Liga F and Champions League titles.

Aitana Bonmati, who Paralluelo assisted twice in Spain's round-of-16 rout of Switzerland, praised her teammates uniqueness.

"It is difficult to find players like her. One whose background is in athletics and who has so much quality on her left foot as well as a really good shot," she said.

"When we have played together, we combine well, and we try to play her in, either in space or to her feet. You can do both with her."

No stranger to international glory

Lifting World Cup trophies is something Paralluelo has become accustomed to, having helped Spain win both the U17 and U20 tournaments in 2022.

The striker's two goals in the U20 World Cup final gave La Roja a resounding victory over Japan and she entered this competition with just eight senior caps.

She started all three of the group-stage matches and the round-of-16 clash against the Swiss, but she struggled to keep up with the intensity and robustness she came up against.

This led head coach Jorge Vilda to drop her to the bench for the quarterfinal against the Netherlands and for Tuesday's semifinal.

But, the demotion from the starting XI allowed Paralluelo to use her lethal pace against tiring defenses to devastating effect.,

"She is a player with enormous potential, and she is a long way from touching the ceiling in terms of what she can do," Vilda said.

"She is very young and has only been focusing fully on training for football for a year. We will see the best of Salma in the future."

Team unity despite off-field issues

For all the deserved praise being showered down on the Spanish side, the well-documented treatment by Vilda of his players, remains a shadow over the team's success.

Without 12 of their best and more experienced players, including Mapi Leon and Sandra Panos, questions were raised over what the side could achieve against the best in the world.

The resounding answer has been that despite the problems that still lie within, and with the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) unwilling to put its support behind the players, the team's bond has become even closer.

"Sometimes as a team you just need a little bit of something. I don’t want to say its luck, but whatever it is, we had it today," Spanish defender Irene Parades told DW.

"We know how good we are as players and as a team and we have to keep pushing just for each other."

Whether or not Paralluelo and her teammates succeed in lifting the World Cup trophy in Sydney, they have etched their names into the Spanish history books in spite of Vilda and the RFEF.